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Nature play is a wonderful way to engage with the outdoors and connect with the natural world.

35 Fun & Easy Nature Play Ideas to Try at Home

With proven benefits, nature play helps support healthy child development. That’s why we love nature play ideas that keep children active and engaged.

At Tribe Early Learning, we incorporate nature play throughout the day at our early learning centre.

When we notice our kiddos are especially restless and need to burn some energy, we know the solution — head outside!

We can see the immediate calming effects nature provides and love watching children explore their surroundings, stimulate their imagination, and connect with the outdoors.

We encourage parents to support their child’s continued development by incorporating nature play at home. If you are new to nature play or need some inspiration, we designed this guide to help.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • What is Nature Play?
  • What Are the Benefits of Nature Play?
  • Backyard Nature Play Ideas
  • Nature Activities for Kids
  • Nature Play Activities for Toddlers
  • Nature Play Ideas for Every Location (City, Country, Apartment)

 

What Is Nature Play?

Nature play refers to unstructured outdoor play for children. This could be as simple as a child searching for worms after a rainstorm!

Nature play involves interacting with and exploring natural surroundings, such as logs, sticks, water, mud, sand, rocks, leaves, and grass.

 

What Are the Benefits of Nature Play?

Children are naturally curious and wired to learn. We like to consider kids as little scientists — and nature is their laboratory!

With endless sights, colours, sounds, textures, and scents, nature play exposes children to the wonders of the world and fosters a love of learning.

We weave nature play opportunities throughout our days at Tribe Early Learning to ensure every child has the chance to build their sense of confidence, get creative, problem-solve, and gain a love of the outdoors — all while having fun!

Nature play can help:

  • Build a child’s confidence and resilience
  • Support and encourage creative thinking
  • Support critical thinking skills
  • Foster a child’s ability to learn how to safely assess risks
  • Build a love of learning
  • Support the natural scientist in your child
  • Put children in control of their learning process
  • Support a calmer mood and reduce tension
  • Give children an outlet for restlessness
  • Contribute to a stronger immune system through exposure to sunlight
  • Encourage physical activity and increased coordination, gross and fine motor skills, agility, balance, and stamina
  • Promote healthier vision
  • Teach children how to care for animals, other people, plants, and the environment
  • Stimulate your child’s imagination
  • Encourage problem-solving skills
  • Build a sense of independence

Related Reading: 5 Benefits of Nature Play in Daycare

 

Experiencing and enjoying different weather conditions, including rain, can help children develop resilience and adaptability.

 

35 Nature Play Ideas for Kids

Now that we’ve covered what nature play is and the benefits of nature play, we’ve put together 35 nature play ideas to encourage your kids to get outside and explore.

These nature play ideas will help complement the nature play we do at our early learning centre. By continuing to support their development at home with these nature-play ideas, we can build a collaborative approach to your child’s learning process.

We’ve made sure these natural play ideas are easy to incorporate into your daily life — and fun! Many of these activities are great for parents too! These nature-play ideas can help you reconnect with your inner child and strengthen the bond between you and your kids.

Whether you have a huge backyard, a small lot in the city, or live in an apartment, you can plan nature activities for kids.

If you live in an apartment, for instance, you can collect leaves, rocks, or sticks from a nearby park or beach and use them for nature crafts. Or take a walk around the block to watch the clouds or catch the sunset.

Here are 35 nature play ideas to help support your child’s development and build a lifelong love of the environment and learning.

 

1. Watch the Clouds

Head outside and watch the clouds with your child. You can observe their appearance and look for fun animal shapes. If your child is older, you can weave in some science by learning the names of the cloud formations.

 

2. Build Forts

Collect branches, sticks, mud, and whatever supplies look like fun and let your child build a nature fort or shelter.

 

3. Watch Wildlife

Listen to birds and try to recognise their calls, learn the names of different birds, or see how many different coloured birds you can observe.

You can also watch worms after the rain, observe frogs or tadpoles in a nearby pond, watch butterflies, or check flowers for pollinating insects.

 

4. Take a Sensory Nature Walk

Head out on a nature walk with your child to watch the sky, keep an eye out for wildlife, observe the weather, and take in all the beauty of the outdoors. Talk about your five senses with your child and see how many of them you can use on your nature walk.

 

5. Stargaze

Head out at night for stargazing and see what shapes you can find or watch for shooting stars together.

Spend a night observing the stars and constellations in your backyard.

 

6. Make Mud Soup

Give your kid an old pot and pan, a scoop or shovel, and a bucket, and let them go wild making mud soup using ‘nature ingredients’ such as water, sticks, leaves, and mud.

 

7. Read Out Loud

Reading out loud to your child is an amazing way to bond with your child and support their development.

Take the benefits of reading out loud to your child even further by reading stories to them outside. Read to them in a hammock, under a shady tree, by a bonfire, or on a blanket in the grass.

 

8. Let Them Design and Build an Obstacle Course

Let your kids design and build their obstacle course. This natural play idea is fun in so many ways. They get to plan, come up with ideas, find materials, build the course, and see if they can complete it!

 

9. Go Barefoot

Feeling the earth beneath your feet is important for kids and adults. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, head outside barefoot together and enjoy the grass on your feet.

 

10. Have a Water Fight

Can’t make it to the beach on a scorching summer day? Get your hose, squirt guns, pails, or buckets and have a family water fight!

Nature play ideas don't have to be complex. A water fight is great for kids of all ages.

 

11. Do Some Nature Sorting

Have your child gather items from nature and then assemble them into groups based on their similarities. Talk about their shape, texture, colour, or smell and see how the items differ from each other.

 

12. Have a Picnic

Pack a lunch together and head outside to enjoy it in nature. You can have a picnic on your porch or patio, head to a park, or put a blanket down in your grass.

 

13. Make a Nature Treasure Hunt

Draw a simple map of your backyard and make a fun little dotted line or course with clues and riddles that lead to a ‘treasure’.

The treasure can be simple (a popsicle, a small pack of stickers, new crayons, etc.) or could also represent a special location. For instance, “X marks the spot” could be the area where you’ll have a picnic together.

 

14. Paint Leaves or Rocks

Nature has so many items that make perfect canvases for painting. Have your child collect big leaves or flat rocks and let them paint and decorate the materials they find.

They can also glue leaves or tiny stones onto a piece of paper to make a design.

 

15. Take Nature Pictures

For older kids, head outside with a camera to capture the beauty of nature. Take pictures of wildlife, flowers, clouds, and the sunset, or photograph each other out in nature.

Photography teaches children to pay attention to details, patterns, and the subtleties of nature.

 

16. Try Some Crushing

Nature ‘crushing’ builds fine motor skills, is downright fun, and will satisfy your child’s curiosity. This activity is better for older kids and is best when supervised closely.

Find a solid rock or stick and carefully use it to crush up clumps of dirt or dry leaves. You can also freeze ice cubes filled with water and flowers or herbs. Then, let your child crush them up to reveal the treasures inside.

 

17. Start a Garden

Starting a garden together is one of the most rewarding nature activities for kids. Find a suitable area, choose what you want to grow, and plan out your garden together. The planting, weeding, and harvesting involved in maintaining a garden are great for the mind, body, and soul!

No backyard for a garden? Get involved with a community garden instead.

 

18. Make a Scarecrow

If you have a garden, make a fun scarecrow using old clothes, hay, an old hat, and sticks and leaves.

 

19. Do Animal Moves

Head outside and see how many different animal moves your child can come up with. Examples include jumping like a frog, hopping like a bunny, running like a cheetah, or flapping your ‘wings’ like a bird.

Get creative, get goofy, and have some fun! This is one of the best nature activities for kids if you notice they have a lot of restless energy. If you join in, it also makes a surprisingly great workout!

 

20. Watch the Sun

Watch the sunrise or sunset together and observe the different colours and cloud shapes. Bonus: have your child colour a picture of the sunrise or sunset.

Find a scenic spot to watch the sunset or sunrise.

 

21. Make Nature Paint

One of our favourite nature play ideas is making nature paint!

Simply have your child choose their desired materials (mud, water, leaves, berries, etc.) and mix them. Then grab an old paintbrush and use your new nature paint to make a picture.

 

22. Get Moving

Do some outdoor stretches, yoga, or movement together in a peaceful spot.

 

23. Feed the Birds

Buy a birdfeeder (or make a birdfeeder together) and hang it up outside. You can keep a chart to track how many birds visit the feeder and what different species you see.

 

24. Create Your Nature Potion Station

Set up a little ‘nature potion station’ by putting out a selection of fun little ingredients, such as:

  • Leaves
  • Mud
  • Sticks
  • Stones
  • Bark
  • Flowers

Let your child mix and max the different ingredients into a large, old pot to create their own ‘magic potion’.

 

25. Play Family Yard Games

Playing yard games as a family is a great way to connect, have a blast outside, and get some fun exercise in!

Play hide-and-seek, tag, kickball, tug-of-war, baseball, or other yard games as a family. It’s a great way to get everyone active and create lasting memories as a family.

Playing in the yard encourages physical activity, including running, jumping, climbing, and various types of movement.

 

26. Try Grass Braiding

Grass braiding is an excellent way to build fine motor skills and let your child get creative. To do this, simply find three long, thick strands of grass and carefully weave them together into a braid.

 

27. Build a Boat

Challenge your child to build a boat using only materials from nature. Then, test to see if it floats in a pond or a bucket of water.

 

28. Make a Bouquet

Bouquets make a beautiful centrepiece for a dining room table or patio table and are fun to create. Help your child select and cut flowers for a vase, add water, and enjoy!

 

29. Make Nature Instruments

Use sticks, leaves, shells, and stones to make musical instruments out of nature. Or, use sticks or rocks to tap on tree trunks to see what sounds or rhythms you can make.

 

30. Wash the Car

Along with being natural-born scientists, kids are also natural-born helpers! Kids love feeling responsible and trusted to help with tasks around the house.

While washing the car is often considered a chore, you can make it fun together! It’s especially great on a hot day.

Washing the car involves tasks like scrubbing, rinsing, and drying, which can help children develop their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

 

31. Build A Mini River

Making a river is one of our favourite nature activities for kids. It’s messy, it’s fun, it’s creative — all of the best things natural play has to offer!

Have your child dig a riverbed shape into the sand or dirt. They can line the ‘riverbed’ with rocks or sticks to try to support the sides or simply pour water into it and see what happens.

 

32. Make Paper Planes

Make paper planes together and head outside into the yard. See who can throw their plane the furthest or which design is most efficient.

 

33. Dance Outside

Put some music on in your yard be silly and dance together!

 

34. Make a Nature Colour Wheel

Draw a colour wheel with your child and head outside. Go on a search for items of each colour on the wheel.

 

35. Build Sandcastles

Head to the beach and let your child build sandcastles and splash in the water. You can bring along a shovel and pail or just let them use their hands and any materials they find on the beach (sticks, leaves, stones, etc.).

Manipulating sand to create shapes and intricate details helps improve fine motor skills in children.

 

We Love Nature Play at Tribe Early Learning!

In a world that is full of screen time, we wholeheartedly believe that natural play is more important than ever!

Outdoor play lets children connect with nature, each other, and themselves and helps build a lifelong love of learning and the environment.

As you can see from our list of 35 nature activities for kids, you don’t need any fancy items or expensive toys to let kids have fun outdoors.

Let your child experience nature play through Tribe Early Learning, where we create exciting adventures and many opportunities for kids to explore the natural world. Enquire with us today to learn more.

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